Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Help with Tables of Contents & Authorities

As first-year students work diligently on their appellate briefs this semester, they will undoubtedly discover that good legal writing involves more than canny research and sharp analysis. There’s also some technical wizardry involved in crafting the perfect court filing.

Court rules (see research guide) usually provide detailed formatting requirements for court filings, from word limit to margin size to color of the cover sheet. In law practice, failure to conform to these rules can result in the rejection of a filing by the court clerk...but in LARW, failure to conform to the formatting specifications can result in the entirely preventable loss of precious grade points.

Perhaps the most difficult formatting issue that 1Ls encounter involves generating tables of contents and tables of authorities, which were most likely not required in undergraduate writing projects. Fortunately, there’s no need to create these tables from scratch—most word-processing programs can generate these tables automatically. The basic processes are similar, but vary depending upon the program you are using. Here are “how-to” links from four of the most popular word-processing programs: Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Word 2007, OpenOffice, and WordPerfect 12.

Microsoft Word 2003
Microsoft Word 2007
WordPerfect 12
Do you have a favorite formatting tip for legal writers? Perhaps you use a word-processing program that we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments section.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship

During Building Dedication Week in November 2008, a group of law library directors (including representatives from University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard, New York University, Northwestern, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, the University of Texas, and Yale) held a meeting at the Duke Law School. Hosted by Senior Associate Dean for Information Services Richard A. Danner, the group drafted the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship, which is now posted at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/publications/durhamstatement.

The goal of the statement is to "urge every U.S. law school" to publish "definitive versions of journals and other scholarship produced at the school immediately available upon publication in stable, open, digital formats, rather than in print." Several additional law schools have already been added as signatories to the statement, and individuals will be able to sign on via the website later this week.

The Duke Law School has long been a leader in open access to legal scholarship, providing the full text of its student-edited journals back to 1997 and archiving faculty publications into its Faculty Scholarship Repository. The Durham Statement aims to continue discussion of open access ideals in the realm of legal information, and to inspire additional law schools to work toward its goals.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A New Source for State Court Records & Briefs

When you need to locate a federal court filing, at least from 1996-present, the odds are good that you will find it on PACER (see Reference Desk for access). Law students, faculty and staff may also have some luck with locating federal dockets, briefs and other court documents on LexisNexis and Westlaw.

State court records and briefs, however, are another matter entirely. PACER covers only federal courts, and there is no comparable database which attempts to include documents from all state courts. LexisNexis and Westlaw’s coverage of state dockets varies widely: some states include only civil filings, some states are not included at all, and the available years are unpredictable. Many law libraries, including Duke’s, do maintain print or microform collections of state court records and briefs, but their coverage varies widely as well.

Thankfully, locating records and briefs from New York and California state courts is about to get easier. LLMC Digital recently announced two digitization partnerships: one with Google, to provide the New York Records and Briefs collection; and the other with the Los Angeles County Law Library to provide California records and briefs. The New York collection is slated to debut in summer 2009; California’s release date is still unspecified.

When available, these records and briefs collections will be added to the Goodson Law Library research guide on Court Records & Briefs. Until then (as always), Ask a Librarian for help locating New York and California records and briefs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tell Us Your Summer Research Story

The classes of 2009 and 2010 received an e-mail on Wednesday, Feb. 18, asking for input in the library's Summer Research Experience survey. Responses to this survey will help the library's reference staff design this spring's Research Refreshers, our annual series of classes intended to help law students transition to conducting legal research in an employment setting.

The survey should take no more than 10 minutes of your time, and your input is extremely valuable! Check your inbox for the link to the survey; if you are a 2L or 3L who did not receive the e-mail, please contact the Reference Desk at ref@law.duke.edu for another copy. Thanks for your participation.

Watch for the Research Refresher schedule to be announced soon. Classes will take place after Spring Break.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cutting Research Costs

Earlier this week, law firm Locke Lord Liddell & Bissell announced a new cost-cutting policy in its fourteen offices: associates are now required to begin their non-billable research with Loislaw, a lower-cost and lesser-known alternative to LexisNexis and Westlaw. (See the office memorandum at Above The Law.)

Although current U.S. law students enjoy free access to LexisNexis and Westlaw, these comprehensive research services do carry a hefty price tag in legal practice. So in this economy, should we expect other law firms to follow Locke Lord’s example? And if so, what can Duke Law students do now to prepare to conduct quality legal research in a cost-conscious environment?

1. Practice cost-effective use of LexisNexis and Westlaw. Both Westlaw and LexisNexis offer tutorials to help you become familiar with their contents and functions; these can help you avoid wasting precious time on basic navigation and searching. LexisNexis even offers a tutorial specifically for “Cost-Effective Research”! In addition, our Lexis and Westlaw campus representatives present trainings in the spring which are intended to help students transition into legal practice.

2. Get to know free and low-cost alternatives in legal research. Did you know that Duke Law students, faculty and staff are actually eligible for free access to Loislaw? (See the Reference Desk for the password…especially if you plan to work at Locke Lord!) Have you tested CasemakerX, a student-oriented version of a legal research service which is used by firms in nearly 30 states? For details, check out our list of Low-Cost Alternatives in the library’s research guide to Legal Research on the Web.

3. Never be afraid to seek help. The Reference Services staff are available to help with devising search strategies in a wide variety of resources. If you find yourself stumped by a research question, don’t hesitate to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

PILF Attendees: Win a Law School Survival Kit!

Law students: we feel your pain. At the end of the semester, there is so much to do that it sometimes feels like a chore just to leave the building. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could assemble a care package with everything you need to camp out in the Law School for a few days and finish your to-do list?

Well, the Goodson Law Library reference staff is offering you just that chance. Attendees of the PILF Auction & Gala on Saturday, February 21 can bid to win a “Law School Survival Kit” jam-packed with goodies (both practical and frivolous) to help you make it through those long days of studying.

The kit contains:
  • STUDY AIDS: ExamPro texts on Criminal Procedure and Federal Income Tax (generously donated by Westlaw); 50 pairs of earplugs; your own personal mini stapler; a giant pack of highlighters
  • SUSTENANCE: A week’s worth of microwaveable dinners (mac & cheese, Campbell’s Soup); box of plastic silverware; microwave popcorn and granola bars (to be enjoyed outside of the library); 4-pack of Red Bull; Nestle hot cocoa; Goodson Law Library travel mug
  • STUFF (FUN): A Vintage edition of Scrabble (suitable for Reading Room tables); Kodak FunSaver camera (for preserving Barristers' Ball or other Law School memories); 2,000 in LexisNexis Rewards Points cards (generously donated by LexisNexis)
And that's not all! In a separate auction item, you can bid to win a piece of the Goodson Law Library-- your very own study carrel. Study carrels are traditionally first-come, first-served in the library...except for the lucky PILF bidder who wins a year-long property claim in carrel 1C11 (yes, it's a window seat).

Proceeds from the PILF Auction help to fund grants for law students who wish to pursue legal careers in the government and nonprofit sectors. Please join the library staff in support of this very worthy cause!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

FDsys: The Future of Federal Publications

Federal legislative history researchers probably know about GPOAccess, the U.S. Government Printing Office's repository for federal publications. GPO Access includes the official U.S. Code, bills, committee reports, hearings, the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations, and a host of other documents; most materials are available in PDF back to the mid-1990s. However, GPO Access has long been plagued by a primitive search engine, making it most useful for retrieving known citations.

This will all change in the summer of 2009, when GPO Access will be replaced by FDsys (http://fdsys.gpo.gov), which is currently available in beta format. FDSys (Future Digital System) currently offers more than 150,000 of the same congressional and executive documents as GPO Access, with advanced search capabilities and a more user-friendly interface. It is also currently the only source for the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents (see earlier post), which replaced the former Weekly Compilation last month.

Update your bookmarks and test out the FDsys beta. New documents are added every day, and additional functions are in the works.